God Loves Uganda highlights dangers of evangelical movement in African nation
Written by Emily Schappacher
July 1, 2013
General Synod attendees learned about ways the evangelical right is promoting homophobia and religious bigotry in Africa during a screening of the film God Loves Uganda. The film was shown Sunday, June 30 at 9 p.m.
"It's important for ONA churches to know that it's not only about us and the LGBT community in our country, but also the LGBT community in countries where being out can mean prison or worse," said Andy Lang, executive director for the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. "God Loves Uganda is probably one of the most effective ways that a congregation can begin to identify what is going on in these countries and, apart from welcoming an LGBT refugee or asylum seeker, there are ways churches can actively advocate for the LGBT community in countries like Uganda."
The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC executive and minster for LGBT concerns, said the film is part of the program at General Synod for a few reasons. First, because it depicts the ways the evangelical right is trying to influence Africa in ways that promote homophobia, and also because the film is a way to help people understand what is happening in Africa and that people are facing very harsh legislation, including the death penalty, because of their sexual orientation.
"It talks about ways in which people can respond to that in terms of trying to support the people of the LGBT community, especially people of faith in Uganda who are struggling," Schuenemeyer said.
The UCC is an active advocate for the African LGBT community. In 2011, General Synod called for the denomination to support international human rights, focusing on gender identity and the criminalization of sexual orientation. The UCC has worked closely with many of the groups depicted in the film, trying to find ways to protect members of the LGBT community who feel threatened because of their sexual orientation or identity. The UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns also offers support for congregations that want to sponsor LGBT refugees or asylum seekers, and produces resources in partnership with the Organization for Refugee Asylum & Migration for congregations that want more information.
"There are thousands of LGBT refugees from countries like Africa, Asia and Latin America, who are struggling to get recognition, who are seeking asylum, and who are living in insecurity," Lang said. "Congregations have an opportunity to do something about that."
God Loves Uganda explores the role of the American evangelical movement in Uganda, where American missionaries have been credited with both creating schools and hospitals and promoting dangerous religious bigotry. The film follows evangelical leaders in America and Uganda along with politicians and missionaries as they attempt the task of eliminating "sexual sin" and converting Ugandans to fundamentalist Christianity.
As an American-influenced bill to make homosexuality punishable by death wins widespread support, tension in Uganda mounts and an atmosphere of murderous hatred takes hold. The film reveals the conflicting motives of faith and greed, ecstasy and egotism, among Ugandan ministers, American evangelical leaders and the foot soldiers of a theology that all see Uganda as ground zero.
God Loves Uganda was an Official Selection at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The screening was sponsored by the UCC Office of Health & Wholeness Advocacy, the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, and Global Ministries Africa Office. The UCC also sponsored the film during the Cleveland International Film Festival in March.